The World Health Organisation (WHO) has put scientists and health workers around the globe on alert for a new and potentially deadly pathogen – Disease X.
Each year the Geneva-based organisation, which is charged with monitoring and safeguarding world health, convenes a high-level meeting of senior scientists to list diseases that pose a serious risk of sparking a major international public health emergency.
In previous years the list has been confined to known killers such as Lassa fever and Ebola.
However, this year a ninth mystery pathogen has been added to the watch list for the first time. “These diseases pose major public health risks, and further research and development is needed, including surveillance and diagnostics”, said the WHO in a statement.
Experts on the WHO panel say Disease X could emerge from a variety of sources and strike at any time.
“History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before”, said John-Arne Rottingen, chief executive of the Research Council of Norway and a scientific adviser to the WHO committee.
Watchlist | Diseases threatening public health emergency
- Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF)
- Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease
- Lassa fever
- Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
- Nipah and henipaviral diseases
- Rift Valley fever (RVF)
- Disease X